No Time to Die does what no James Bond film has dared do before it. After almost three hours of lovingly playing into the outlandish tropes that defined the series’ past, the film ends posing an almighty question regarding its future. James Bond is dead. Not in a fake-out You Only Live Twice kinda way; a real blown-apart onscreen death as he chooses to sacrifice himself for both the world and his new family. I’ve already discussed the death itself at length – an imperfect but emotional farewell – so let’s instead look to the uncertain future of the franchise. We know there’ll be one but just what will it look like?
Before the film’s release, speculation was rife about Lashana Lynch’s character Nomi being the new lead of the franchise. “It’s her movie more than it is Bond’s!” “They are replacing Bond with a Black woman to appease the woke crowd!” Of course, when you actually watch the film, that’s all confirmed to be untrue. Would you know it, the supporting character included to create a specific conflict with Bond and develop his character journey ended up being just that. I like Nomi and her attitude, which shifts as the film continues. It’s a fun dynamic seeing Bond lock horns with his replacement 007, and why not one who represents the changing world to highlight Bond’s apparent obsoleteness? The Bond Girls, or Bond Women, in the film aren’t the huge feminist shakeup some thought, they hold the same roles as female characters have previously in the series, they are simply more fleshed out and feel like dynamic characters in their own right, which is no bad thing.
So, does the idea of a Nomi spin-off seem likely? I’d say not but I’m not totally against the idea. Bond is the protagonist of the series but immediately rebooting and introducing the next iteration of the character so soon could lessen the impact of Craig’s Bond’s death. A female-led film, maybe dealing with the aftermath of No Time to Die (although not beholden to the fate and legacy of a dead man) could be an interesting choice. An epilogue of sorts; a final farewell to this era of the franchise and its extended cast. A spin-off starring Halle Berry’s Jinx from Die Another Day was in development for a while and I think Nomi as a character has much more potential as a new lead. But while Nomi served her purpose as a foil-cum-ally, I thought the Bond Woman who was most entertaining was Ana De Armas as CIA agent Paloma. A film seeing the two characters team up, their personalities clashing in classic fashion, could be great, especially if scripted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
But let’s be honest, the film ends with the chyron “James Bond will return” and casting is set to start next year. A Nomi and Paloma film is a nice idea but, despite the finality of No Time to Die, the series will likely do what it always does and recast the character for a new era, albeit fully rebooted this time. We’ll get the announcement of the new actor taking on the role in a year or two, the Internet and papers will explode with anger and disbelief whomever is cast, and then they’ll hopefully prove themselves when the film is released. All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. The only actor everyone seems to like for the role is Idris Elba and 15 years ago, sure, he would have been great. But he’ll be over 50 by the time he shoots his first Bond film and James should be in his early to mid-thirties in his debut. If I had to suggest someone it’d be Himesh Patel or Jack Lowden, but even I don’t want to be right. An unknown or little-known actor is probably the best way to go.
Given how serialised Craig’s films have been, the upcoming reboot will probably have to wipe the slate clean and recast every role, from M to Q. While I liked Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw in their respective roles, I would be okay with not seeming them again, but I am disappointed at the prospect of not seeing more of Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny. The Bond/Moneypenny relationship is dependent on the two repeatedly seeing each other for brief moments, and after only three films it never quite took off. She’s great in Skyfall but relegated to more boring fare for the next two films. If Judi Dench could survive the leap from Brosnan to Craig, why not Harris from Craig to whoever’s next? Lois Maxwell, the original Moneypenny, was annoyed she didn’t eventually become M so it could be fun to see is Craig’s Moneypenny becomes the next head of MI6. Although I think it would be fun to cast Timothy Dalton in the role. Or even Idris Elba.
For years the ‘codename theory’ was a fun idea in the fandom that explained Bond’s recasting and de-aging throughout the years as being the result of ‘James Bond’, like ‘007’, being a codename passed down from agent to agent. It is, of course, complete rubbish. Despite making little sense, there is a loose continuity to the first 20 films of the franchise, with callbacks and references to previous missions and characters, and we explored Bond’s childhood for the first time onscreen in Skyfall and Spectre, finally putting the theory to bed. At least, until now. James Bond is dead and to honour the man could M and MI6 decide to use the name as a codename for future exemplary agents? It would allow the filmmakers to leave the world they’ve created throughout five films intact. Yet I doubt it. Doing so would place the new actor too much in Craig’s shadow and the films would forever be beholden to that version of the character. Everyone else would be but a pretender.
If reimagining James Bond in the past was a difficult task, after Daniel Craig’s tenure it’s a damn near impossible one. The last five films have stayed true to what matters while also changing the character drastically, making him a more human character than we’ve ever seen onscreen, and what the future holds in terms of tone, plot, and character development, I do not know. But despite No Time to Die and its bold ending, the film proved that sometimes the old ways are the best and I have no doubt that, somewhat unsurprisingly, James Bond will return and remain the centre of the franchise.
James Bond is dead. Long live James Bond.
What do you think the future holds for James Bond? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.